State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

How ACToday Builds a Global Community of Climate-Trained Decision Makers

ACToday, the first Columbia World Project, aims to combat hunger in six countries that are particularly dependent on agriculture and vulnerable to the effects of climate change and fluctuations: Bangladesh, Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Senegal and Vietnam.

One of the key objectives of ACToday is to strengthen the capacity of local governments and stakeholders to effectively interpret and use climate data to inform policy and planning. In the last year, the project’s six country teams conducted 52 trainings for more than 1,600 government, private-sector and nonprofit professionals as well as graduate students.

The subject matter covered in these trainings has spanned the range of information that professionals need to truly understand and integrate climate knowledge into food planning and policy: climate-science basics, advanced forecasting methodologies, using mapping tools for piloting and planning agriculture projects, and more. The graphic below gives a snapshot of some of the participants in ACToday-supported trainings.

The number and scale of ACToday’s trainings are noteworthy — especially considering the efforts needed to develop course materials and teaching modules for both online and hybrid environments during a global pandemic. But it’s ACToday’s approach to training that deserves special attention.

“We’re mindful that all projects eventually come to an end,” said ACToday’s training lead, Ashley Curtis. “And so we’ve framed our trainings around three principles to ensure what we hope will be a sustained impact.”

The first principle is to work with academic partners to integrate climate services curricula directly into existing graduate programs, as ACToday has done at Independent University, Bangladesh, Senegal’s Cheikh Anta Diop University, and Ethiopia’s Bahir Dar University, along with three other universities in Ethiopia. In this way, the next generation of leaders come out with a solid understanding of the connections between climate and food security.

ACToday helped train more than 1,600 professionals working at the intersection of climate and food security last year. Here’s what some of them had to share about their experiences. (Click the image for a larger view.)

The second principle is to develop training courses that meet the immediate professional needs of decision makers who work at climate, agriculture and humanitarian institutions inside and outside of government. The knowledge about climate science, forecasting, insurance design and other topics that these decision makers receive though these courses are quickly incorporated into day-to-day operations.

The third principle is to foster connections and working relationships among the critical stakeholders and partners needed to adequately address climate threats to a country’s food systems. These include national meteorological agencies, ministries of agriculture, research institutions and development agencies.

“By the end of ACToday, we will have trained a professional cohort of thousands who work at all levels of government and within every part of the climate services landscape,” said Curtis. “These are the experts who will continue the work of helping ensure their countries have safe, nutritious and stable supplies of food despite what climate conditions may bring.”

Adapted from a story originally published by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society

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